Welcome to the International School of Florence Research Programme.

Improvement…change…curiosity…perplexity…making a difference…and

exploring the idea that research in schools is ‘systematic inquiry made public’
(Stenhouse, L. 1978)

These are the starting points for thinking about research at ISF.
We look for a ‘TENSION in the environment’; something we feel passionate about or something that we would like to see done differently. For teachers this is a change in their teaching practice – for parents it’s a change in the way the school or the way our wider community does something.

Whatever happens, by the end of the research project, something will be different and researchers share the differences with our school community and sometimes wider afield.

How does it work?

Each Summer/early Autumn, staff and parents at ISF are invited to make proposals to join a year-long inquiry into areas of school life they want to improve, change, investigate, or are just curious about, and feel others might want to know more about too. Once research groups are formed with common areas of inquiry, they meet regularly to discuss their plans and actions, and explore research methods and methodology. There are also 5 weekend meetings comprising Friday evenings and Saturdays through the research year. At the end of the journey, or at least the end of the first cycle, researchers are expected to present their findings to the community and make recommendations for change.

The programme is supported and led by the Director of Learning & Research at ISF. Whilst it is difficult to quantify exactly, the programme will take up approximately 70 hours in total of directed and independent study over the year. 

In October 2019, Research Cohort 1 presented their findings at the inaugural ISF Research Conference. 11 staff researchers presented 5 different projects.

In December 2019, Research Cohort 2 was formed and met formally in January 2020. A significant difference this time was the invitation for interested parents to join the programme. For Cohort 2 we had 8 project groups involving 11 members of staff and around 5 parent researchers. Parents worked alongside teachers as partners. Also significant was the tenacity of researchers to continue through COVID-19 and present their findings at our second Conference in April 2021.

Cohort 3 was established between May and September 2021 and will present their findings at the third Research Conference in April 2022. There are 15 researchers, including 3 parents, working across 10 project areas. Again we have a parent group – this time researching ‘How we can improve transitions between Grade 10 and Grade 11?’.

 All groups are supervised by the Director of Research and a code of ethics agreed at the outset and revisited at each meeting.


Other activities

On June 5th, 2020, we hosted a webinar style Research Symposium – we were joined by our partner research schools and organisations in Barcelona, Mumbai, Paris, and Reykjavik to discuss approaches to research, share ideas and projects, and to strengthen a network of research active schools.

This is the poster from our first Conference:

ISF Leading Edge Learning Research Programme Conference


The programme has its roots in the Leading Edge Learning Research Programme established at the International School of Paris in 2014.  It developed as a bespoke programme for international schools keen to be informed and led by the educational issues that matter to them.

The programme is premised on the Lawrence Stenhouse inclusive view of applied research as:

Systematic enquiry made public

(Stenhouse, L. 1978, see ‘classrooms as laboratories’ p.10):

Applying Research to Education

The Programme forms part of the Research and Design Centre offer at ISF and is led by Phil Whitehead, who is Director of Learning and Research at ISF.

The programme has its origins in a successful Masters in Education programme first taught at Oxford Brookes University and covers elements of taught research methods and the completion of a research in action/practitioner research project. It is not award bearing, nor currently affiliated to a university.